Breaker, One Two

They’re called step-twos … and, no, I’m not a dancer. You don’t want to see me swash a chasse, shall we say, across the boards any time soon – if at all. I can smooth the 88 keys on a moment’s notice and gracefully step off a curb, but to stride an Astaire memory or click an amazing Hine’s tap? Nah … not even close.

Dancing my way through life with other skills than, … well, … dancing are my commodities. My sellable contributions to society. All of us need to know what we’re good at … and what we’re not for the sake of all that’s sane in our heads. To attempt small household repairs such as I tried this evening, one must know, truly know, his place in life and recognize the historical pattern BEFORE attempting such a simple task.

Enter these step-twos as I’ve named them.

I must have a gnome. An invisible little pain in the ass who interjects delicious little detours into every industrious home improvement project I attempt. He shows up every time. Every. Single. Time. Look, I’m no do-it-yourself pro sitting here claiming the ability to challenge even the most amateur wood and screw guy to a nail gun duel. In my circle of friends, there are plenty of electricians, wood dudes, roofers, lawn ladies and gents, … all of whom couldn’t play Chopin or Scriabin, but would know far more than I about a two-cycle engine or metric vs standard tools.

Still, with that, I do know some basics … like how to turn a screw. Seems a bit simplistic, right? Step one.

My day started swimmingly. Other than a major snowstorm, lunch with dad was pleasant. Delicious pot roast at the local chain restaurant surprised my appetite as a breakfast cancellation earlier unexpectedly appeared. A few small banking issues and run-arounds aside, the day shoveled up nicely. Light winter snow moved easily as did my attitude throughout the hours.

At 4:08 p.m., a suggestion came across and into my right ear. “Do you think we could go to the store and get a replacement for the breaker that’s defective?”. As the driver picking her up from work a few days a week, it’s necessary that I listen. With the radio down in volume and attitude up in attention, I reluctantly agreed … knowing I have the evening free and quite confident the simple act of replacing a broken tandem breaker is very … very, uhm, simple. Step one.

I’m relaxed, yet very absent-minded at that moment. During the three minutes drive home, “Remove the cover plate, snap out the old breaker, loosen the two screws, pull out two wires … and place an old breaker into my happy pocket”, casually organized its grammatically graceful self in my brain. All set. Step one.

Ah, but step-two – the forgotten bastard child of my plans and the future success of any home repair project – had yet to appear. The gnome. I should have gnome it was coming.

Aaaaand … there it was. Twenty minutes into trying to remove the breaker, I couldn’t. The lady of the house, from the stairs above, spoke words I always like to hear: “Just let it go. It’s not working. Maybe if I try. Can I hold a flashlight?” It’s not her fault at all … except, maybe, I hadn’t planned on doing this project at all … today. Sure, it’s been six months. Sure, the breaker may not even be the problem with the dining room lights. Sure I’m no Tesla or Edison here, but … I’m a husband and need to try. The damn breaker wasn’t coming out, so I called my friend – an electrician … on my cell … that doesn’t work in the basement.

Are you starting to see the pattern here?

He stops by an hour later, being the kind person he is, of course. I’m a bit miffed at this point since supper is on hold, already in step-two attitude mode (marginally inconsolable), and considering a séance at that point. With an expected bad breaker in hand, I head off to Home Depot for a replacement … in the snow which, by the way, doesn’t seem nearly as friendly as it was only three hours prior. John, my friend, headed home after a long day. Can’t say I blame him. I was nearly an overloaded circuit of emotional distress.

Mindfully aware my electrician friend knows I’m not fully charged as a certified replacement tech, he made sure I had the original in hand. I did, showing the same to Mr. Electric at Home Depot. Save a small difference in the clip on the back, he assured me the twin I eventually scanned at the self-checkout would compel me, once again, to enjoy a fine, fine winter’s evening. He freakin’ assured me! … Again, I know what I’m good at … and not good at. Picking out tandem breakers is NOT my thing. I need Mr. Electrical Expert to help me. Side-by-side, the two lined up. That was my single, one and only metric guiding me to breaker box bliss.

Back home, supper at the ready two hours late, I sat on the sofa. Only fifteen minutes prior, off to my concession trailer I had to run in order to get my proper screwdriver. Why would I have a regular tool like that here at the house? Damn gnome took it … I guarantee it! Shrimp and spaghetti was delicious, btw.

Down to the basement I went, belly full this time hoping it would curb my, otherwise, crappy attitude. Step-twos are really unpleasant for a guy like me when looking into an open breaker box with one open slot, a new breaker that would’t snap in because the back hicky-clasp-doodle is different than the old one, I wasn’t able to get one of the wires to stay locked into its hole, and all of this had to be done in relative darkness due to the overhead light being directly behind me … casting a big head shadow over the whole project.

With one final heave-tightening, I got the two wires tightened. With that, as of this moment … one of those three goals have been achieved; however, there’s no cover and the breaker isn’t in place. I’m done. So. Done.

Here’s the kicker – and why step-twos need to chasse of the curb that is my life and get hit by a bus. The very fan-lights that didn’t work … the non-breezy, non-lit part of my life that caused this day of mine to go into a tailspin …

They still don’t work.

Welcome to the breaker hell that could be step-three. Please, Gnome more.